The curtain fell on a big news week and rose an hour early today, ushering in daylight saving time, the beginning of Brain Awareness Week and the Ides of March on Wednesday.
High drama surrounded Richmond County Sheriff Ronnie Strength’s announcement that he would not seek re-election, though anyone who knows him knew it was a foregone conclusion. Some people say the same about the bribery charges against David Fry.
AH, WHAT A RELIEF IT IS: After announcing he’ll leave the sheriff’s office at year’s end, Strength said, “I’m glad it’s over.”
He’d been telegraphing his decision for months despite intense pressure to give it a go one more time. What it all boiled down to is that he’s tired. Moreover, he doesn’t want to drop dead in the sheriff’s office as his father did.
Strength said he felt confident and in charge before Friday’s news conference until all the women around him started crying.
“I’ve never been an emotional person,” he said. “I knew what I was going to say and felt confident. But when I saw them, I said, ‘My God, I don’t need that.’ And when I got into saying I had put my job before my family, I choked up and had to stop and pause and get myself together. It got me. It really did.”
But it’s not really over – yet.
“What I’ll really have a problem with is Dec. 31 when I leave for the last time,” he said. “I’ve been with these folks 36 years, and they’re like my family.”
A HOUSE DIVIDED? He’ll have a worse problem standing on the sidelines during the primary campaign while the man he believes is the most qualified to be his successor, Capt. Scott Peebles, vies with former sheriff’s Investigator Richard Roundtree and possibly others, such as the brother of Strength’s wife, Lt. Robert Silas.
Silas has expressed an interest in running despite being pressured not to split the white vote – not to mention the family – apart.
Thanksgiving would never be the same.
MOM, WRITE A FEW ENDORSEMENTS FOR ME: Roundtree is coming on strong. Earlier this month, he posted this on his Facebook page:
“Let me first apologize for not what I am about to say but for waiting so long to say it. We are in a position to change the face of Augusta, unite the community and make history. Yet, there (sic) members of our community who chose to chastise and defame us.....” just because “....or that they have their own agendas. I encourage everyone … When conversations start off with ‘Well I heard’ … They should end with ‘Well if you don’t know for sure, how about keeping your mouth shut.’ We have been and still are, our own worst enemies. Let me make this clear … It is my intent to be the next Sheriff of Augusta-Richmond County … For those of you, and you know who you are … You can either get aboard this train … or you can stand in front of it. … The choice is yours. This is my pledge to you. … Community and Law Enforcement … One Team, One Dream.”
And one Grateful Mother.
ONE DEAL LEADS TO ANOTHER: Augusta Commissioner Corey Johnson, one of the two commissioners that Fry was accused of trying to bribe with promises of a 3 percent cut of parking deck revenues if they would vote for building it for the TEE Center, called the sentence Fry received Thursday “a bunch of crap.”
Fry was sentenced to five years’ probation on allegations that he tried to bribe Johnson and Commissioner Alvin Mason in 2009.
“They got what they wanted,” Johnson said. “They put it off and put it off. The attorney realized they had enough evidence to convict him. I can’t say that I was shocked. But if the shoe was on the other foot, and we had tried to bribe him … It makes you wonder. I don’t wish any ill will on anybody.”
Nevertheless, Johnson said Fry should have gotten some time in prison and the fact he’s on medication was no excuse for keeping him out.
“There’s people in prison right now on medication,” he said. “A lot of them. It didn’t make sense.”
The district attorney’s office said there were evidentiary issues with the case because Fry had no contract to offer. Fry’s attorney, Pete Theodocian, called the offer an “indecent proposal” but not a bribe.
Fry said he’s happy the sentencing is over for the sake of his family.
“It’s been a long time,” he said. “There’s been some irreparable harm done, and I’ll have to deal with that. I believe in God, and I know good will come from it. I don’t know what it will be yet, but I will.”
3R1 VERSUS 3R2: State Sen. Jesse Stone dropped another redistricting plan into the legislative hopper last week, the second proposed map, 3R2, for redistricting Richmond County’s commission and school board districts.
Earlier, Rep. Wayne Howard introduced 3R1, the map approved by a 12-member ad hoc committee, four of whom later withdrew their support because it has six majority-black and four majority-white districts.
3R2 decreases the percentage of the black voting age population in District 6. Stone said he wanted to ensure it remained a swing district.
Plan 3R1 has passed in the House and must be approved by both Stone and Sen. Hardie Davis, as would 3R2.
Both plans protect incumbents, but if neither bill gets through, a federal judge could end up redistricting Richmond County, and he won’t care where the incumbents live.
Commissioner Grady Smith, one of the ad hoc committee members who voted for 3R1 but later decided that was a mistake, said, “It’s a sad day for Richmond County when we can’t sit down at a table and come to an agreement.”
Isn’t that what the ad hoc committee already did?
IT’S MINE! IS NOT! IS TOO! IS NOT! What blocked the MCG Foundation’s repeated $1 million offer to buy the city’s transit property at 15th and Fenwick streets? That’s the property commissioners recently voted in secret to sell to a developer for $505,000 as the site of a Walmart.
Was it because the foundation fell out of favor with the powers-that-be at MCG in 2008 after turning down a request by then-MCG President Dan Rahn for $5 million to go toward the construction of a new dental school? Rahn resigned from the foundation and demanded the rest of the board quit as well.
When most of the 38-member foundation board kept their posts, the school began efforts to sever ties. Rahn formed a new foundation with Clay Boardman III as chairman.
The University System of Georgia then sued the MCG Foundation for its refusal to stop using the name connected to the Medical College of Georgia.
After new MCG President Ricardo Azziz replaced Rhan, the two-year rift ended and the suit was dismissed.
I asked City Administrator Fred Russell whether that theory made sense, and he said it did. He said both foundations called him trying to make sure the “right” foundation got the property.
I guess nobody could decide which was the right one.
IF I ONLY HAD A BRAIN: Brain Awareness Week won’t help me one bit. It’s too late. I ordered too much from the plant catalogs that start coming to a mailbox near me in January, and now the nurseries are going to ship a shade garden, a bird garden, a butterfly garden, two Bleeding Hearts and two giant blueberry bushes this week.
Too much, too soon. What a pickle!